German Language and Literatures
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Department Chair:
Steve Huff

Administrative Assistant:
Polly Bratton

Department Email:


Phone: 440 7758650
Fax: 440 7756355

Location:
Peters Hall 222
50 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Max Kade German Writer in Residence Program

Max Kade German Writer in Residence Program

Uwe Kolbe

Poet, essayist, novelist—was born in the former East Berlin in 1957, four years before construction on the famous Berlin Wall commenced in 1961, which would divide the city in half for the next 28 years. His early childhood was spent with his parents on river barges navigating the inland waterways on which they worked. Strong visions of these waters swirling in and around Berlin resurface time and again in his poetry, tying it not only to Berlin’s history as a settlement in the Märkisch marshes, but also to Kolbe’s own history as a child of this city.
German riverscapes not only nourished Kolbe’s roots, but also perhaps symbolize an escape route —fluidity was not readily available in the strictly controlled East German regime, but in poetry, anything is possible.
Kolbe began writing at age 14 and published his poems at 19, in the venerable literary journal Sinn und Form in 1976; he managed to publish his first books of poetry, Hineingeboren and Abschiede, before being banned from further publication in the GDR for three years. Following this interdiction, Kolbe stirred up his own groundwater currents by collaborating with Bernd Wagner and Lothar Trolle on the underground literary newspaper Mikado (1983-1987).
In 1986, Kolbe obtained a visa permitting him to travel outside the GDR, and after several years of touring the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany to give lectures, Kolbe spent the fall of 1989 as the writer- in-residence at the University of Texas at Austin,which put him in the strange position of witnessing the historic fall of the Berlin Wall from the other side of the world instead of from his own front door.
Kolbe has continued to travel widely and publish prolifically since then. He has received fellowships to work in a wide variety of places, including Italy (Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, Villa la Collina), and Bulgaria (Stiftung Künstlerhaus Edenkoben, Rheinland- Pfalz). He has also participated in readings and festivals in Jerusalem, Beirut, Tel Aviv, Sarajevo, Nicaragua, Colombia, and New York City, and he has lectured and held workshops in London, Buenos Aires, Sydney, and Seoul. In between his numerous engagements, Kolbe found time to grow his already substantial collection of poetic publications, most recently releasing Lietzenlieder (2012), Heimliche Feste: Gedichte (2008), and Diese Frau: Liebesgedichte (2007). He has explored genres as much as places: in addition to poems, Kolbe has also published essays, translations, stories, and a detective novel.
Since his first writer-in-residence position in Texas, Kolbe has also held appointments at a number of German, British, and American universities, including Oberlin College in the fall 2007. In fact, Kolbe is Oberlin’s only writer-in-residence to be invited back for a second term. (Readers of Kolbe’s latest book, Lietzenlieder, may recognize Oberlin’s landscape in some of the American-inspired poems.) He is glad to be back to work in a community with which he is already so well acquainted, and is excited to use the “amazing resources of this “wonderful island,” as he calls Oberlin, to push forward with his latest projects.
Kolbe’s personal philosophy dictates that once an experience has been translated into an artistic work, it is no longer purely a receptacle for the artist’s own sentiment, but rather a conduit for conversation, an avenue by which to access and interact with the audience’s experiences. This emphasis on artistic and experiential interaction underlies Kolbe’s collaborative work, including the woodcuts by Hans Scheib that illustrate Diese Frau and the sonnet cycle in Lietzenlieder, which was written to accompany an artist’s exhibition in Berlin.
In addition, all of Kolbe’s work is strongly informed by his impressive grasp of literary history, which puts his words in conversation not only with his contemporaries and his audience, but also with the great artists before him who shaped literature as we know it. Kolbe’s repertoire for this reading was, unsurprisingly, chosen with the spirit of collaborative engagement; each student in his German seminar selected a poem to be read, and some furnished their own translations.

We hope that all who attend the reading will join the conversation.
— Ida Hoequist and Sophie Richardson

German department welcomes 44th Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence

The German department is delighted to welcome Peter Wawerzinek as our 44th Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence for the fall semester 2012.

Peter Wawerzinek is a major novelist, audio dramatist, director, and singer who is highly regarded in Germany today. Wawerzinek grew up and was educated in the former East Germany. Born in the city of Rostock in 1954, he studied art in East Berlin and has worked not only as a freelance author, but also as a performance artist, gravedigger, mail carrier, and carpenter. Wawerzinek currently lives in Berlin.

Mr. Wawerzinek has published many volumes of prose fiction and audio drama. These include Es war einmal...Parodien zur DDR-Literatur (1990); Nix (1990); Das Kind, das ich war (1994), Mein Babylon (1995); Das Meer ist an sich weniger (2000), and Rabenliebe (2010). He has received a number of distinguished literary prizes, including the Berliner Kritikerpreis für Literatur (1991), the Hörspielpreis der Berliner Akademie der Künste (1993) and the Ingeborg-Bachmann Preis (2010). His most recent work was also on the shortlist for the prestigious Deutscher Buchpreis last year. Wawerzinek is noted as well for his collaboration with poets and artists from diverse fields, most notably, the German puppeteer, Jonas Soubeyrand, whom we also welcome to Oberlin as Visiting Artist

 

Mr. Wawerzinek and Mr. Soubeyrand have collaborated for years and some of their work together is chronicled in Sperrzone reines Deutschland (2001). This book describes the summer they spent giving puppet shows and traveling the northern German coast in a covered wagon. As highly creative artists, they encountered some tremendous enthusiasm but also suspicion and puzzlement. This remarkable book includes some extraordinary insights into art, entertainment, and “who belongs” in Germany. Readers quickly learn that Peter Wawerzinek and Jonas Soubeyrand make something special out of every moment.

Oberlin students are now enjoying the opportunity to experience this creativity for themselves. Mr. Wawerzinek and Mr. Soubeyrand are teaching this fall’s Writer-in-Residence seminar together. In addition, they are offering campus-wide and public performances and workshops on the crafts of writing, illustrating through puppetry, staging, and directing performances.

Generous gifts from the Max Kade Foundation and from alumni and friends of the German department support these residencies. We note them with our sincere appreciation here.

 

 


 

 

We are pleased to welcome Susanne Schädlich as our 43nd Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence for the fall semester 2011.

Susanne Schädlich interviewed by Rory MacLean Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s vital to recall why it remains such an important event – by remembering some of the many lives destroyed by state arrogance and individual cowardice. In the 1970s Hans Joachim Schädlich was a rising East German literary star. But his texts were too critical to be published in East Germany. So his first book was smuggled out of the country and published in Hamburg. Immediately Schädlich became an enemy of the state. His East German publishing contract was cancelled. He lost his job at the Akademie der Wissenschaften. He was denied work even as a taxi driver. ‘Like many kids of East German intellectuals I was kind of alert,’ his daughter Susanne Schädlich, 43, told me over a steaming glass of peppermint tea on a cold Berlin morning. ‘At home my parents had always talked openly about “dissident” writers. We watched West German television. My father had hosted the East-West authors’ gathering and signed the petition protesting the expulsion of poet and singer Wolf Biermann. So I knew how to behave outside of our home.’ Her father was threatened with prison but the regime – aware of Schädlich’s friendship with Günter Grass – feared western criticism. So rather than subject him to a show trial they simply told him to leave the country too. Five days after she heard the news, Susanne and the family moved to West Germany. ‘My whole life changed from one day to another,’ she said. ‘I had to leave my school, my friends, my beloved grandmother. I found myself surrounded by people who spoke my language, but I didn't feel understood. I was split between two homes.’ Even in exile the Stasi would not leave the family alone. Their agents harassed them, tried to kidnap the father, attempted to force Susanne to return to the east. Hans Joachim developed psychological problems. He and his wife separated. Only when she moved to West Berlin - where she lived for six years - did Susanne start to feel a sense of home again. ‘In those days Berlin was a mirror of myself. It was divided yet defiant. Like the city I was determined to find my own way, no matter what.’ Susanne sipped at her tea. Her literary autobiography Immer Wieder Dezember ("Always December Again") has been published to critical and commercial acclaim in Germany. A reviewer in Die Zeit heralded it as ‘a textbook of German post-war history’. ‘I didn’t set out to write this book,’ she explained. ‘I had wanted to write about the children who were forced to leave East Germany. Adults like the actor Manfred Krug, the writer Utz Rachowski, the poet Sarah Kirsch and Bernd Jentzsch brought about their own exile. Nobody asked their kids if they wanted to go. But then I discovered the truth about my uncle.’ Uncle Karlheinz had been ever present throughout Susanne’s childhood. He was a much-loved, larger-than-life character: a womanising historian who spoke the Queen’s English, smoked British tobacco and wore tweed. He flirted with artists and talked long into the night in the family apartment. His idol was Kim Philby, the MI6 double agent who betrayed hundreds of western agents to the Soviets. In 1992 – more than two years after the fall of the Wall -- Hans Joachim discovered that his brother had spied on the family and friends for more than a decade. He started his career in 1974 by betraying a young defector, leading to his arrest and imprisonment. ‘My uncle had a choice between good and bad, and he chose bad,’ said Susanne. She insisted that Karlheinz had acted as he did not only because of a commitment to communism or for money (the Stasi allowed him to travel abroad and profit from petty smuggling). ‘He was highly intelligent and maybe – in East Germany in those years – he didn’t know how to use his intelligence.’ Uncle Karlheinz never apologised to his brother. On Hans Joachim’s suggestion he telephoned his other victims and confessed to his actions. But he appeared to feel no remorse. In 2006 – soon after the revelation that he had also spied on Günter Grass – Karlheinz Schädlich shot himself on a Berlin park bench. ‘I constantly ask myself, “Why did he betray us? Did he love us, or did he pretend all his life?” It was like a Greek tragedy.’ His suicide prompted some newspapers to accuse the family of a lack of forgiveness. The charge outraged Susanne and changed the course of her book. ‘It upsets me how this country deals with perpetrators,’ she admitted. ‘We are encouraged to forgive wrong-doers so that we can start anew. Yet my uncle did what he did because he wanted to. In the book I state plainly that he wasn’t a victim of the system.’ She went on, ‘I believe that individuals have to act morally. Germany has had two dictatorships and, if history isn’t dealt with honestly, one can stumble into the same abyss again.’ I asked Susanne about the difficulty of talking honestly about the German Democratic Republic. ‘For forty years East Germany was a dictatorship. But after 1961, most of its almost 17 million citizens did nothing against it. Today when you remind them of this fact, when you tell the truth, they feel personally attacked. They feel a sense of guilt. That makes it difficult to talk about coercion and cowardice. It also engenders a nostalgia – “Ostalgie” – for the past, and an idealisation of the political reality of life in the DDR. This is dangerous as a number of former Stasi members, and informers, hold posts in politics and public services.’ Immer Wieder Dezember combines Susanne’s lean and precise prose with interviews and extracts from letters and actual Stasi files to tell a story of defiance, hope and betrayal against the backdrop of a disintegrating state. Her stroke of genius is to have framed the book as an everyman’s tale. The family name is never mentioned in the text. The characters are known only by their Christian names. And rather than write MY father or MY uncle, Susanne refers to THE father and THE uncle. ‘It’s my story of course, but it’s also broader and more universal,’ she explained. ‘It is a showcase for the perfidiousness of that state and its collaborators and the suffering of many.’ The book also chronicles her search for a place in the world. After West Berlin, Susanne Schädlich studied and worked as a translator in America. Here her two halves slowly came together, as did East and West Germany. ‘I hold inside me now three places: East Germany, West Germany and the United States. So home for me is a kind of mosaic. Home is wherever I am, regardless of the physical location.’ But now she has returned to Berlin to play her part in ensuring that Germans do not forget. ‘We can’t deal with history by putting on rose-tinted glasses,’ she said. ‘We must find the courage to tell the truth.’ Rory MacLean November 2009

We are pleased to welcome Esther Dischereit as our 42nd Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence for the fall semester 2010.

Poet, novelist, essayist, screenplay author, and stage and radio dramatist, Esther Dischereit is a major intellectual voice offering insight into Jewish life in Germany today. Born in Heppenheim, Hesse, in 1952, Esther Dischereit currently lives in Berlin.

Dischereit’s best-known published works include the prose text, Joemis Tisch—Eine jüdische Geschichte (Joëmi’s Table; 1988); the collection of poems, Als mir mein Golem öffnete (When my Golem Opened the Door; 1997); and the essay collection, Übungen jüdisch zu sein (Lessons in Being Jewish; 1998). Dischereit wrote the screenplay for A Dress from Warsaw (Ein Kleid aus Warschau) in collaboration with Polish director Michal Otlowski. The film was produced in 2006 and has been screened in the United States and in Europe. Many of Dischereit’s works have appeared in English translation in numerous anthologies of contemporary German-Jewish literature.

Esther Dischereit is noted as well for her collaboration with musicians and performing artists, an attribute of her work that we especially hope to support here in Oberlin. In the 1990s she founded the WordMusic Group with Detroit-born percussionist and composer Raymond Kaczynski. Together their work blends improvisation, rhythm and language in order to create thought-provoking sound installations. Based in Germany, Dischereit and Kaczynski perform in radio productions and work with a number of composers.

Among Esther Dischereit’s many artistic residencies are her fellowship at the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European and Jewish Studies in Potsdam in 1995 and her appointment as Writer-in-Residence at New York University in 2004. She has lectured widely in the United States including at the University of California, Berkeley; Washington University in St. Louis; Cornell University, and at two National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminars at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dischereit has won stipends from the Hessian Ministry for Science and Art, the Stiftung Preussische Seehandlung in Berlin, the Berlin Senate, and the Erwin-Strassmann-Stiftung.

Esther Dischereit’s work has moreover garnered notable attention from scholars. A conference on her writing was held at the University of Wales, Swansea, in 2003, and a new volume of critical essays on her writing appeared earlier this year.

Esther Dischereit will teach GERMAN 304, the Writer-in-Residence seminar, on Wednesday evenings from 7-9. Public readings will also take place during the semester. Please join us in welcoming Ms. Dischereit as the 42nd Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence at Oberlin College.

The Max Kade Writer-in-Residence Program now entering its 40th year, is a unique opportunity for Oberlin College students and faculty to spend a semester with a prominent and exciting contemporary author by reading and discussing his/her work. Over the years, these writers have contributed significantly to postwar German literature. Among them are poets and novelists from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Perhaps the most famous is Christa Wolf, followed by others with international reputations, such as Jurek Becker, Helga Novak, Ulrich Plenzdorf, Barbara Frischmuth, Tankred Dorst, among others. The short stories by Peter Bichsel are a staple in modern German literature as well as in our German language classes. More recent texts by Richard Wagner (who migrated to Germany from Rumania in 1988), Zafer Senocak, the German-Turkish author, Irina Liebmann, who left East Germany shortly before the opening of the wall, or Doron Rabinovici, one of the young Austrian-Jewish writers, are featured in and enrich our advanced literature courses. They also illustrate the shifting literary landscape and concerns in German-speaking countries.

Past Writers-In-Residence

2009

41th Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence


Barbara Köhler is a major poet, translator, essayist, and mixed media artist who is highly regarded in Germany today. Köhler grew up and was educated in the former East Germany. Born in the state of Saxony in 1959, she held various positions in theater in Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) and studied at the Institut für Literatur in Leipzig. Köhler currently lives in Duisburg. Köhler’s published works include many volumes of poetry and mixed media. These include Blue Box (1995); Deutsches Roulette. Gedichte. 1984–1989 (1991);  Niemands Frau (2007); and Wittgensteins Nichte. Vermischte Schriften (1999).

An accomplished literary translator, Köhler has published three volumes of translation from English and French: Gertrude Stein’s zeit zum essen. eine tischgesellschaft (Audio-CD, ed. Urs Engeler, 2001); Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons / Zarte knöpft (Suhrkamp, 2004); and Samuel Beckett’s Mirlitonnades / Trötentöne (Bibliothek Suhrkamp, 2005).

Köhler is noted as well for her collaboration with poets and artists from diverse fields, an attribute of her work that we especially hope to support here in Oberlin. Her audio, visual, and spatial installations offer an intensive examination of language and art. Köhler’s overarching goal is to explore the many dimensions of texts and the relationship among media. She pays special attention to tone and rhythm, and is known as well for her wonderful sense of humor.

Barbara Köhler was Writer-in-Residence in the city of Rheinsberg in 1995 and at the University of Warwick in 1997. For her poetry and collaborative work, Köhler has received a number of significant prizes. These include the Joachim-Ringelnatz-Preis (2008); Samuel-Bogumil-Linde-Literaturpreis (2003); Förderpreis zum Lessing-Preis des Freistaates Sachsen (2001); Literaturpreis des Ruhrgebietes (1999); Förderpreis Literatur des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (1997); Clemens-Brentano-Preis der Stadt Heidelberg (1996); Förderpreis zum Else-Lasker-Schüler-Preis (1994); Förderpreis zum Hölderlin-Preis der Stadt Bad Homburg (1992); Förderpreis zum Leonce-und-Lena-Preis (1991); and the Preis der Jürgen Ponto-Stiftung (1990).

Barbara Köhler’s work has moreover garnered notable attention from scholars in the United States and in Europe. Since the appearance of the book Entgegenkommen: Dialogues with Barbara Köhler (Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi; 2000), several important critical studies of Köhler’s work have appeared in major journals. These include German Life and Letters; Colloquia Germanica: Internationale Zeitschrift für Germanistik; and Gegenwartsliteratur: A German Studies Yearbook.

2008
40th Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence

Jan Wagner as the 40th Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence for the fall semester 2008. Mr. Wagner is a poet and translator of literary works from English into German. Born in 1971 in Hamburg, he studied English and American studies in Hamburg, Dublin, and Berlin. He has worked as a freelance reviewer for the major German newspapers Frankfurter Rundschau and Tagesspiegeland co-published the international literature box  Die Aussenseite des Elements until 2003. He has lived in Berlin since 1995.
 
Jan Wagner is the author of several collections of poetry, including Guerickes Sperling (2004) and Probebohrungim Himmel (2001). As co-editor with Björn Kuhligk, he published Lyrik von Jetzt. 74 Stimmen (2003). He translated and edited JamesTate, Der falsche Weg nach Hause(2004) and Charles Simic, Grübelei im Rinnstein (2000), with Hans Magnus Enzensberger, MichaelKrüger, and Rainer G. Schmidt. His poems appear in numerous anthologies, newspapers, and literary magazines, including Jahrbuch der Lyrik, neue deutsche literatur, Akzente, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ,Das Gedicht, Sprache im technischen Zeitalter, Edit and Konzepte.

2007
39th Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence

Uwe Kolbe
Poet, Essayist, Writer of Prose, and Translator

Uwe Kolbe was born in 1957 in East Berlin. His father was a sailor on the inland waterways. After graduating from high school and completing military service, he studied at the Literatur-Institut Johannes R. Becher in Leipzig from 1980 to 1981. His first volume of poetry, Hineingeboren, appeared in East Berlin in 1980, but the increasingly critical nature of his writing led to a ban on publication in the GDR in the early 1980s. During these years, he edited the illegal journal Mikado together with Lothar Trolle and Bernd Wagner. In 1985, he was permitted to travel abroad and lived in Hamburg from 1987 until he could return to Berlin after the fall of the wall. Today, he divides his time between Berlin and Tübingen, where he is Director of the "Studio Literatur und Theater" at the University of Tübingen.

Recent publications include the essay collection Renegatentermine (1998), the poetry collections Vineta (1998) and Die Farben des Wassers (2001), Der Tote von Belintasch, Kriminalgeschichte (2002). Thrakische Spiele, Roman (2005), and another volume of poetry ortvoll. Gedichte (2005).

Uwe Kolbe has received numerous prizes, including the Nicolas Born Prize (1988) the Tübingen Friedrich Hölderlin Prize (1993), and the Preis der Literaturhäuser (2006). He was also writer-in-residence in Austin, Texas in 1989, from where he observed the fall of the wall.

2006
38th Max Kade Writer-in-Residence

Gila Lustiger

2005
37th Max Kade Writer-in-Residence

Mariella Mehr

2005
36th Max Kade Writer-in-Residence


Katja Lange-Müller

2003
35th Max Kade Writer-in-Residence

Peter Stefan Jungk

2002
34th Max Kade Writer-in-Residence


Doron Rabinovici

2001
33rd Max Kade Writer-in-Residence

Irina Liebmann

2000
32nd Max Kade Writer-in-Residence


Zafer Senocak

*****

1999 Gert Loschütz
1998 Werner Söllner
1997 Anna Mitgutsch
1996 Barbara Neuwirth
1995 Thomas Rosenlöcher
1994 Ralf Rothmann
1992 Richard Wagner
1991 Jürg Amann
1990 Hanna Johansen
1989 Josef Haslinger
1988 Helga Schütz
1987 Gernot Wolfgruber
1986 Karl-Heinz Jakobs
1985 Rainer Malkowski
1984 Gert Hofmann
1983 Peter Rosei
1982 Bernd Jentzsch
1981 Walter Helmut Fritz
1980 Christoph Geiser
1979 Johannes Schenk
1978 Jurek Becker
1977 Max von der Grün
1976 Barbara Frischmuth
1975 Ulrich Plenzdorf
1974 Christa Wolf
1973 Helga Novak
1972 Peter Bichsel
1971 Christoph Meckel
1970 Tankred Dorst
1969 Fritz Hochwälder
1968 Kuno Raeber